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Indonesian fishers plead with president on seine nets and other assistance

Fish at a market in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

  • Fishers in Indonesia’s Java Island are calling for permits to resume using seine nets, after the government last year lifted a ban on the potentially destructive devices.
  • They their voiced their requests during a recent visit by President Joko Widodo to a fishing port in East Java.
  • The president also promised to dredge the port after the fishers complained of not being able to dock during low tide because of heavy silting.

LAMONGAN, Indonesia — President Joko Widodo met with fishermen in East Java last week for a discussion on fishing gear policy, infrastructure and how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected their business.

After inspecting the fish on display at a market at Brondong National Fisheries Port, Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, and his entourage of local officials and the minister of fisheries went out to the docks, where they were met by a throng of fishermen who yelled greetings in Javanese, his native language.

Many of the fishermen previously used seine nets, known locally as cantrang, and wanted to obtain permits to resume using the devices in the wake of the lifting of a ban on their use, Agus Mulyono, chairman of the local chapter of the All Indonesian Fishermen’s Association (HNSI), said at the event.

The ban on seine nets, which are highly effective, if indiscriminate, tools for sweeping up large amounts of fish, was lifted last November partly on the grounds that it was difficult to enforce, the fisheries ministry said at the time, adding that permits would only be issued to boats already using the nets.

The fishermen were ready to pay taxes on their use of the nets, Agus added.

Jokowi tours the fish market before meeting the fishermen. Image by Falahi Mubarok for Mongabay.
Locals throng around the president’s motorcade at the fish market last week. Image by Falahi Mubarok for Mongabay.
Some of the fishers called out to Jokowi in Javanese, asking if he wanted to take a ride on one of their boats. Image by Falahi Mubarok for Mongabay.

Some fishermen complained about silting at the port preventing boats from docking at low tide, a problem Jokowi said he’d look into.

“I have told them that we will conduct dredging operations in the next two or three months,” Jokowi said in a statement.

The fishermen said the pandemic hadn’t affected their work much, though they did complain about unstable fish prices — something Jokowi said he couldn’t do much about.

This article was reported by Mongabay’s Indonesia team and published here on our Indonesian site on May 8, 2021.

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